2023 Scholarship & Fellowship Brunch

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The Duke Law Scholarship & Fellowship Brunch gave students the opportunity to meet and thank the donors whose generous support of financial aid has helped make their Duke Law education possible.

Scholarship donors and recipient talking at brunch table

Duke Law School donors, board members, faculty, named scholars, and fellows gathered on October 28th at the J. B. Duke Hotel at Duke University for the 2023 Scholarship & Fellowship Brunch. Students had the opportunity to meet and thank the donors whose support of financial aid has helped make their Duke Law education possible.

Duke Law was able to award over 200 named scholarships and 38 named fellowships to current law students in 2023. We are immensely grateful to the many alumni who have funded scholarships and fellowships for our students.

Student Voices Video

This year's brunch opened with a special video in which three Duke Law named scholars describe the impact of their scholarships in their lives, their legal educations, and their future careers. Featured in the "Student Voices" video are Johanna Crisman ‘25, the recipient of the Andrew G. & Amy C. Slutkin Scholarship; Tyler Wallace ‘25, the recipient of the Paul Everett Carlton Scholarship; and Tianyu Wang ’25, the recipient of the Thomas Jordan Memorial Scholarship.

Full Event Video

Two hundred guests attended the brunch, including 100 named scholars and fellows, as well as scholarship donors and friends, members of the Law School's Board of Visitors, faculty, and staff. Remarks were given by Kate Buchanan T’92, Associate Dean, Alumni & Development; alumni speaker, James D. Smith ‘86; student speaker Caroline Tervo ‘24; and Kerry Abrams, the James B. Duke and Benjamin N. Duke Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law.

Photo Slideshows


Welcome: Kate Buchanan T’92, Associate Dean for Alumni & Development  

Good morning, and welcome to the 2023 Duke Law School Scholarship & Fellowship Brunch. My name is Kate Buchanan and I serve as Associate Dean for Alumni & Development. On this day, we come together to celebrate our incredible students and the donors who generously support their educational pursuits.

What a tremendous group of law students we have at Duke. Not only are they talented, interesting and intellectually curious, they want to make a positive impact in the world around them.

Students like Johanna Crisman, the Andy and Amy Slutkin Scholar, originally from Washington State, who is pursuing a career in the Army Judge Advocate General Corps. A West Point graduate and former Field Artillery Officer she remains an active-duty Army officer while at Duke Law. Her student activities include Mock Trial Board and the National Security Law Society. She is also an Ironwoman triathlete!

Kate Students like Tyler Wallace, the Paul Everett Carlton Scholar, from D.C. and Los Angeles, a member of the Dean’s Student Advisory Council who came to Duke Law after working in film, media. He is a member of the Black Law Student Association, The American Constitution Society, and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program.

Students like Tianyu Wang from China and California who was involved in law and psychology research as part of her undergraduate studies at University of Southern California. At Duke Law, she is the Co-President of the Asian Pacific America Law Students Association, on Law & Contemporary Problems journal and a mock trial board member.

Students, congratulations on your academic achievements to this point. You have worked so hard to be here, and we are excited about your future. I encourage you to get to know the alumni and donors in this room. Ask them to share their stories, and the stories of the people whose scholarships they represent. Their tremendous successes, but also their hardships and occasional missteps, are instructive.

Think about the positive influence that their support is making in your life. For some of you, your scholarship offer was the deciding factor in selecting Duke Law… or even deciding if attending law school was a viable option at all. For many of you, the fact that you received aid frees you to make career decisions after graduation based upon what you want to do and where you want to do it, rather than what you must do in order to manage the burden of substantial debt. This is especially true for those of you who intend to answer the call to public service.

In all these cases, your tuition bill did not magically disappear or get reduced. Real people – like Paul and Cheryl, Reggie, Rob and Ann, Colin, Lila and others – chose to invest in YOU.

Alumni and friends, you are in the company of future leaders and resolvers of conflict in the legal profession and in the world. Today, ask them about their path to Duke and their aspirations for the future. What legal issues pique their interest? What wrongs in the world do they want to make right using their legal training? You have made a choice to invest your hard-earned dollars to lend a helping hand to students like Clare, Jorren, Maia, Matt and other students around the room today.

These connections among alumni, faculty and students are what make Duke Law so special. I feel privileged to be a part of it. I’m pleased now to introduce a very special member of our Duke Law family – James D. Smith, Duke Law Class of 1986.

James is a 1986 graduate of Duke Law School. James serves as the Deputy General Counsel at Ecolab USA. He oversees Ecolab’s global operations in relation to patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Prior to this role he served as the Chief Administrative Patent Judge for the U.S. Patent Office. In addition, he clerked for Chief Judge Paul Michel at the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, practiced at several firms, and led in-house IP teams at Lexmark, Nokia, and Baxter International. He co-teaches Trade Secret Law at the University of Minnesota Law School.

James is currently serving as a Senior Member of the BOV and is a member of the BOV’s Resource and Development Committee. He actively supports the Duke Law Annual Fund and The Jerome Culp Scholarship Fund. Over the years, he has met and mentored many of the students receiving aid from the scholarship.

Last but not least, James was the 2013 recipient of Duke Law School’s Charles S. Rhyne Award which honors graduates whose careers exemplify the highest standards of professionalism, personal integrity, and commitment to education or community service.

At a Board of Visitors committee meeting yesterday, James described a “presumption of friendship” that he feels when meeting each and every member of the Duke Law community, and how that anticipation of friendship is based upon a common bond with Duke Law and respect for the high quality of people associated with our school. I would like to now introduce you to your newest “presumptive friend”, James Smith.

James D. Smith ’86

Thank you, Dean Buchanan and Honorable Dean Abrams.

Thank you to members of the faculty and staff, . . . and thanks to all of you who participate with your contributions -- monetary and otherwise -- to help make this marvelous Duke Law School thing happen . . . but especially when it comes to making it possible for students to meet the substantial cost of a great legal education.

We should also pause to thank the current students here today who are the beneficiaries of the giving to scholarships.  And let us thank them dually, that is, at least for two things.  We are grateful for what they are sharing with us this weekend of their experiences, and by so doing renewing in us the fondness that lives inside us for this Law School.  But we thank them for another great and affirming contribution that might not be so obvious.  At the center of this giving enterprise are human beings trusting the rest of us – administration, staff, faculty and motivated donors -- with their futures.  By linking themselves to this institution these current students affirm us by way of their confidence that what may become of their professional lives safely may be put in the hands of our Duke Law School.  Thank you for believing in us and for joining our community.

Still in the vein – of gratitude, I want to divert – only sort of – to invite your consideration briefly of what I will call a kind of “economic theorizing.”  This minor detour will come in the form of a question . . . in proper deference to my general ignorance of sophisticated principles of economics.  Is it always the case that a proliferation of a form of currency and its greater circulation cause that currency to become, undesirably, of lesser value?  More specifically, in the economy of human goodwill and emotional exchange, do statements of sincere gratitude suffer at the hands of a type of despicable inflation when we choose to offer such statements with increasing liberality and to a widening circle of “thank you” recipients?  If so, then – sadly – as I say what I think needs “sayin’,” I will be doing my part to help undermine the goodwill economy.  I am all for saying “thank you” and I have several more to express.

I could not bring with me today all the sincere statements of gratitude that I rightly should give voice at this meeting.  I received a substantial scholarship from Duke Law School.  It made a substantial difference.  It made the difference.  But for it, I would not have been able to afford to attend Duke Law School.  Thank you, Dean Carrington, may you rest in peace.  Thank you, Dean Swinson.  Thank you, every member of that scholarship committee, who decided -- 40 years ago -- that I was worth the risk.  You changed everything for me and my family.  Indeed, I dare say that, thanks to that tremendous help, I have managed gainful employment – as a lawyer or essentially lawyering -- for nearly four decades.

But to stop there would be insufficient in the way of gratitude and not risk nearly enough destruction of the goodwill economy.  How could I ever state sufficient appreciation to people like Professors Weistart, Mosteller, Beale, Christie, Cox, Everett, Becton, Bartlett, and all the great giants of their era for being willing to climb into the cluttered attic of my brain and clear out the junk of fuzzy-mindedness to construct clear corridors of logical and effective thought, and . . . perhaps . . . even make some part of my head into a small penthouse of legal rigor.

And no less fit for enduring gratitude from me are my classmates and members of the adjacent classes.  First, they scared me with the force of their minds.  Then, they inspired me with their work ethic.  And they won my heart with their civility, caring and companionship, all of which still endure.

I try to not be slack and to rise fully to the appropriate joyful obligation of pronouncing gratitude.  I give from what the profession has allowed me to earn.  And even the manner I choose to give has included in it a particular stamp intended to create yet one more coin of “appreciation currency.”  I save some of my giving for the Professor Jerome Culp Scholarship Fund.  I knew him.  I was a second-year student when he arrived.

I maybe will skip the parts about Prof. Culp as first black tenured professor of the full-time faculty.  Surely, as to that aspect, my gratitude attaches to his willingness and to Duke Law School in seeking him.  But that is only one aspect of why we would look to say thank you to Prof. Culp and the memory of him with scholarship donations. 

His students loved him – in class and on the basketball court.  His colleagues loved him – at faculty gatherings and in the wonderful exoteric discussions in which those professor-types like to engage.  And they cherished him when they traveled to Duke away basketball games.

[But back to the black thing for a second.  Imagine – on a campus where black folk once only were allowed to garden and clean -- the power in an inaugural voyage for this Law School in which those white intellectual law giants I just mentioned are treating a young African American professor – and deservedly so -- as an intellectual equal and a dear friend.  It well might bring tears to anyone’s eyes just thinking of it.]James D Smith ’86 speaking at podium

I admired and respected Prof. Culp when I was a student here and years later at different types of professional and social gatherings away from Durham and then, again, being in Durham and sitting together at Francesca’s on Ninth Street eating dessert and receiving life and career advice from him 10 and 15 years after I graduated.  I hope to continue making contributions to the Culp Scholarship fund permanently.  “Thank you” to all of you who also direct funds to the Culp Scholarship Fund.

These remarks, focused on thank you, cannot rightly leave out my Parents – now deceased.  Yes, they thought I had lost my mind when I jumped at the grace of Duke Law School in accepting me, causing me to pass on a full ride master’s degree education in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech, which was to be paid for in full by Bell Laboratories along with a stipend equal to 70% of my salary if I had been working for the company the first two years in Holmdel, New Jersey.  But after my Parents recovered from the shock of my choice as to what I wanted as my life’s work, they were nothing short of fully supportive and did everything to fill in financially and otherwise to allow me to emerge well from the tremendous experience as a law student here.  Whenever I give to Duke, I give on behalf of the three of us and certainly not just myself.

True confession: Part of the reason I give of my means, such as they are, to this Law School also comes from a more avaricious and unseemly part of who I am.  And I invite all of you also to channel that back alley of your own personalities.  When our current Duke scholarship recipients accomplish their many goals and have the kind of means that we as scholarship donors now have, they will be the next generation of scholarship donors.  We then can boast of having a part in their success and we can revel in the increasingly acknowledged greatness of this school arising from their accomplishments.

Almost certainly it is a permanent reality that not every student who has shown that he or she can succeed well here and go on to be the best and brightest in places lawyers are needed will have the financial means to do so.  But we can help.  And the more we help with scholarships, the closer we can get to that day when no prospective Duke Law student feels pressure to turn down coming to Duke because of the lack of funds.

Often, I feel somewhat self-conscious about how I have given to Duke Law School.  I have written no big check.  I have written only modest checks – at least as “modest” easily would be defined in the circle of highly successful Duke Law folk.  But I have written them consistently for years and against a tide occasioned by stints in public service, the academy, and certain severe family medical challenges.  I stayed giving.  My inspiration, of course, coming from wonderfully generous people like the Stars and the Ichels, who are an example to us all.  

I started by thanking Honorable Dean Abrams for allowing me to say a few words.  Let me now return to her in closing.  It is an incontrovertible maxim that you can tell much about any leader by those objectives she chooses to prioritize.  In choosing and staying committed to increasing with scholarships this great Duke Law School opportunity for deserving students as one of her top priorities, she has shown herself to be a very capable and wise trustee of the great set of assets of the school, and also to be a compassionate and noble human being.  Thank you, many times over, Dean Abrams.  I hope that all of us can help Honorable Dean Abrams bring about major, successive step-changes in Duke’s scholarship resources.

Thank you everyone for all you do for the Duke University School of Law.

By the way, I don’t actually believe that the coinage of gratitude can fall victim to any type of bad inflation.  I am of that other school of economics.  In the right markets, and when, behind that currency, there are solid nuggets of human effort directed at the well-being of others and their improvement as actualized, well-educated, principled, and committed lawyers, the “printing” of “thank you Benjamins” and their circulation simply serve to expand a solid goodwill economy with more opportunity and rewards for the eager participants.   

It is now my distinct pleasure to introduce one of our exceptional Duke Law scholars for today’s address – Caroline Tervo. Caroline’s journey at Duke University School of Law has been nothing short of inspiring, thanks in part to the financial aid support provided by the David F. Levi and Nancy R. Ranney Scholarship.

During her time at Duke Law, Caroline stood out in many ways. Among her many notable accomplishments – Caroline serves as Senior Articles Editor for Duke Law Journal, she won the Duke Law Dean’s Cup against a highly competitive field and she serves on the Dean’s Student Advisory Council.

Outside of the classroom, her passion for civil rights and social justice led her to an internships with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the North Carolina DOJ Office of General Counsel and Office of the Solicitor General.  After graduation, Caroline will be a law clerk for The Honorable Anita Earls, an associate justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Committed to a public interest career path, Caroline embodies the spirit of a dedicated Duke Law scholar. Caroline’s passion, dedication, and commitment to making a difference in the world through the law make her a wonderful representative of our Duke Law family. Without further ado, it is an honor to introduce Caroline Tervo.

Caroline Tervo ‘24

David F. Levi and Nancy R. Ranney Scholar

Thank you for that introduction.

I want to start by thanking the donors in this room on behalf on my fellow scholarship recipients. Your extraordinary generosity has changed our lives, and I know we will achieve more in our careers and be better positioned to pursue our dreams because of your support.

A special thank you as well to Dean Levi and Ms. Ranney. Your vision and leadership as well as your generosity have profoundly shaped Duke Law School. I am so honored and deeply grateful to be a Levi / Ranney Scholar. 

I was asked to reflect on the significance of my financial aid scholarship and what it means to me –– so at the risk of being too obvious, I’m going to talk about two things: why I came to law school and what I want to do with my law degree. 

And I have to start with a confession: I did what no one who went to law school would advise, which is that I came to law school with no intention of ever practicing law. (I know that’s a great note to start on to a room of practicing attorneys.) But it’s true. 

Caroline Tervo speaks at podiumWhat’s more, I also started law school with hefty skepticism about the legal profession –– if you can, envision for a moment the world in August 2021: our country was grappling with the murder of George Floyd and the new national light it shed on the enduring racial injustice in our criminal and law enforcement systems. Months earlier on January 6, a violent assault on our nation’s capital laid bare the vulnerabilities in our democracy. It felt like our vital democratic institutions were failing, and that lawyers, as guardians of those institutions, were failing, too.

And yet here I was, signing myself up for three years of law school at Duke. Because despite my skepticism, and despite my disinterest in the practice of law, I believed lawyers are powerful agents for positive change. I had faith that good, smart lawyers do matter to our democratic institutions, our systems of justice, and the rule of law. 

And I knew that a legal education at Duke would give me powerful tools to make a difference. I grew up in eastern North Carolina and am dedicated to a career in public service in this State. So Duke––with its reputation for excellence and its commitment to strengthening our North Carolina community––would open all sorts of doors to start building that career.
And it mattered to me that I had the support of the Levi/Ranney scholarship––which made my dreams of using my law degree for public service feel within reach.

So that’s the story of why I came to law school––I wanted to learn tools to make change. Which leads me to my story of what exactly I wanted to do with my law degree. And truthfully I had no idea. I told you I started law school with no intention of practicing law––so you can imagine my surprise when I realized mid-way through 1L that the practice of law actually seemed interesting. Like really interesting. I may be the only person who enjoyed learning about the Rule Against Perpetuities in Property and Pennoyer against Hoff in Civil Procedure. But I did, because those topics and others felt so intellectually stimulating and clarifying about how the world works. And I wound up loving other parts of 1L, too: my professors were wonderful, and my classmates were so kind yet thoughtful. I was thrilled to meet so many new people who were committed to their own vision of public interest legal work.  

Very quickly I realized that although I went to Duke Law to learn tools to change institutions; this institution would change me, too.

I decided spring of 1L to lean all the way in to not having any idea what I wanted to do with my law degree. I would try to take advantage of the huge range of opportunities Duke Law had to offer. 

So I spent the summer after my 1L year doing voting rights litigation and community lawyering across the South. Incidentally one of my first cases involved a challenge to North Carolina’s legislative and congressional districts, which wound up putting democracy issues squarely in front of the United States Supreme Court in Moore v. Harper. During 2L I trekked to the Duke Rubenstein Library for original archival research on a Durham civil rights organization, and I cut my teeth in appellate advocacy through the appellate practice class and competing in the Dean’s Cup. I spent this past summer at the North Carolina Attorney General’s office, where I found proof that good, smart lawyers can make a difference in creating responsive, inclusive institutions that work in the public interest. And I’m spending my last year of law school representing low income clients in housing and economic justice matters for the Civil Justice Clinic, while having the extraordinary privilege of publishing articles with Duke Law Journal.

So I’m still not sure exactly what I want to do with my Duke Law degree. But as the sampling of opportunities I’ve had here at Duke show, the possibilities are endless. 

Which brings me back to what the Duke Law financial aid program means to me. Being a Levi/Ranney Scholar means I feel supported to stay focused on why I went to law school¬¬ while having the freedom to take risks: to try everything, to be surprised. I can stay committed to public service and making change, while having flexibility to change my mind about what that service will look like. This combination of support, focus, and flexibility is greatest gift of Duke Law’s financial aid program. 

So thank you for your commitment to making a difference and to supporting Duke Law students to realize their dreams for why they too went to law school. While there are ongoing reasons for skepticism in and around the legal profession, there are also reasons for hope––and many reasons for hope are sitting here in this room. 

Closing Remarks: Kerry Abrams, James B. Duke and Benjamin N. Duke Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law

Good morning. Thank you to Johanna, Tyler, Tianyu, James, Caroline, and Kate for sharing your perspectives with us today.

It is hard to follow such eloquent and poignant stories, so I will keep my remarks brief.

For my part, I want to reflect on how incredible this community of Duke Law alumni, future alumni, and friends is. It was four years ago when we last gathered in this very room to celebrate our scholarship and fellowship donors and their beneficiaries. Since then, our community has been through a lot – a pandemic that physically separated us from one another and limited the tools with which we typically build and nurture community. But I can honestly and confidently say, our community is as strong and resilient as ever, and you can feel the spirit of intergenerational commitment and generosity in this room today.

I have been reflecting a lot on this idea of community as we prepare to celebrate Duke’s 100-year anniversary next year. Compared to our much-older peer institutions, Duke Law School has achieved a degree of excellence and repute that few would have expected in such a relatively short time. I believe our secret ingredient has been our extraordinary community. Each successive generation of students has cherished this place, endeavored to improve it during their time here, and as alumni, invested in its continued success for the benefit of the next generation. 
Kerry Abrams Speaking
For the students in the room, I hope you’ve already seen the impact of the alumni and donors on your Duke Law experience. To a person, our 13,000 living alumni care deeply about you and your future, as evidenced by the donors sitting next to you who have invested deeply in your legal education. Know that you can turn to them now and in the years to come for wisdom and guidance as you navigate the legal profession.

To the alumni and donors in the room, thank you. You continue to amaze me with your generosity and kindness. Indeed, in March 2022, The Duke Endowment gave a $10 million grant to match new gifts and commitments to financial aid funds. In just 20 months, 46 donors met that challenge and collectively pledged $10 million to new and existing financial aid endowments. That’s what the Duke Law community does – it gives and gives, and then, it keeps giving.   

As we close, I would like to ask all the donors to scholarship and fellowship funds to please rise and be recognized. [Lead applause]

To the students, we have so much optimism and hope for your futures, and we will be cheering you on every step of the way. Would all student scholarship and fellowship recipients please rise to be recognized. 

Thank you all for coming, and enjoy your weekend.